It was more mumbo jumbo. But it struck me—somewhere deep inside me, a place that I didn’t recognize, reverberating in my bones and tingling through my nerve endings. So I let it sit and settle and didn’t refute.
A few silent moments later, it was my mother who spoke. “I couldn’t wait to marry your father. Did I ever tell you that?”
I froze, and I sensed Mirabelle did too. My mother never spoke about the past. Never anything pleasant, anyway. We’d grown up assuming that her marriage to our father was based on business. Jack’s father’s company had just gone under, but the Pierce name still held weight, and my father was an innovative thinker. The Walden family, on the other hand, had money and investments with no one to groom for takeover. Sophia Walden’s union to Jack solved a lot of problems.
We’d never been led to believe that there was love involved.
“No, Mom, you haven’t told us,” Mirabelle said quietly, and I could feel her silently urging Sophia to go on.
“We were more in love than anyone should have the right to be. It scared my father, I think. When we announced our engagement, he nearly had a heart attack. ‘How will he ever provide for you?’ As if my trust fund didn’t give me enough money to provide for myself.”
Sophia didn’t look up as she spoke, her focus pinned on a lock of hair that refused to lay the way she wanted it to. “But Daddy took Jack out for ‘a talking to.’ And when they came back, it was decided that we could get married as long as your father took over the Walden companies. It was a win-win as far as I was concerned. Our worlds were becoming entwined in every way possible.”
I noted her use of the word worlds and realized that had been what had spurred her trip down memory lane. My mother had also moved her world to be with Jack Pierce. Or Jack had moved his world to be with her. Such a strange thing to try to comprehend. It was easier for me to imagine my parents ha**ng s*x than to imagine them being in love.
“My father wanted Jack to take over as soon as we were married. Since I wanted a short engagement, Jack spent a lot of that time at the office with Dad. I didn’t see him nearly as much as I would’ve liked. Our wedding day, though.” She sighed softly. “It was the happiest day I could imagine. There Jack was, in his tux. So handsome. I kept wishing the ceremony would hurry and get finished so I could jump him.”
“Mother!” Mirabelle feigned embarrassment. It was the sort of story she got off on. Even if it was coming from her parent.
“I was young once too.” Sophia’s face was bright, happier than I’d ever remembered seeing it.
“Then I hope you had a wonderful honeymoon.”
My mother’s wistful smile vanished at Mirabelle’s words. “Well, it started out well. But Jack had to leave the day after we arrived in Bora Bora. Company problems. He was in charge now. You know. If a wife had to be left alone on her honeymoon, then that’s what had to be done. The story of our lives after that.”
Mirabelle dropped her gaze. If I had to guess, she was fighting back tears. She was an easy crier.
Interesting, though, was how my mother’s words affected me. I’d always seen my mother encased in a hard shell of bitterness. Now, she seemed to shift in my view, and from this new vantage point, I saw something else surrounding her—something warm and tender. Approachable, even. A woman that she once was.
How fascinating would that study be? To examine where she came from to how she ended up. Maybe it was another scenario Celia and I could recreate. Another game we could try to play.
God, always the game…
My mother set the iron down. “But the wedding day was beautiful. And yours will be too.” She combed her fingers through the last curls she’d made then took Mirabelle by the shoulders. “Look at yourself. You’re just lovely.”
Mirabelle did as she was told. She smiled at her reflection, apparently pleased with her appearance. Or she was pleased with the experience. She reached up and patted one of Sophia’s hands. “Thank you, Mom. For everything.”
For the smallest space of time, while I watched as this mother and daughter shared a seemingly ordinary moment that was anything but ordinary, I sensed that there was something to life that I was missing. A color adjustment, perhaps. A flavor that I simply hadn’t been introduced to. A sound that hadn’t found its way to my ears. Something…more.
But that was mumbo jumbo too. If I needed proof, I only had to look back on the results of my experiments. How I lived—emotionless and free—that was all there was that was real. There was nothing more.
I discovered that evening that rehearsals were as draining as actual weddings. Though I’d attended a few out of obligation, I’d never been involved in them as Mirabelle had involved me. She’d convinced Adam to make me the best man. I was in the damn wedding party. It was the most hypocritical situation I could imagine myself in. All night I was asked, “Aren’t you so happy for Mira? Doesn’t she make a lovely bride?”
As happy as I can be and she’s lovely all the time could only be said so many times before responding grew wearying. In between the fake conversations and polite smiles, I imagined the schemes I could work. That one in the too-tight skirt—would she still be drooling over the dick who’d brought her if I convinced her the best man was into her? The waiter who kept flirting with Adam’s sister—would he cheat on his wife (he clearly wore a wedding ring) if she returned the attention? I knew I could get Mirabelle’s bridesmaid to slip away with me—we’d f**ked occasionally in the past—but could I arrange for her fiancé to catch us?
It was maddening how many times I had to remind myself that Mirabelle’s wedding was off limits for my experiments. So many times, in fact, that I stopped listening to myself. And when the bridesmaid in question took a seat next to me, the tug to attempt my play was too strong, the buzz overwhelming all reasonable thought.
I placed my hand on the back of her chair and leaned in. “You wouldn’t have chosen that seat, Melissa, if you didn’t mean to get something from me.”
She twirled a ringlet of hair around her finger and sat forward so I could easily peer down her dress. “And what exactly would I want from you, Hudson?”
“From the way you’re shoving your chest at me, I’d say you want me to f**k your tits in the pool house.” Under the table, I slid my hand up her skirt. “But don’t worry. I’d give your cunt proper attention as well.”